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WNBA Commissioner Engelbert talks changing perception of league

Cathy Engelbert said the league is now starting to be seen as a bold, progressive sports media and entertainment propertyGetty Images

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said there has been a "huge underinvestment and undervaluation of women in the workforce, and in women’s sports," but she is "seeing a transformation," according to a Q&A with Sean Gregory of TIME. Engelbert said when she joined the league it was "really being under-covered," but it now is "starting to be seen as a bold progressive, sports media and entertainment property." Below are excerpts from the Q&A, some of which have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: What has been the key to some of the positive metrics the WNBA has been seeing going into this new season?
Engelbert: We embody diversity and stand for social justice and the power of women. You look at companies, and they all want to make their mark around diversity, equity and inclusion. They all have these big initiatives internally. Now’s the time to use women’s sports as part of supporting that diversity and equity and inclusion.

Q: Have you received guidance from [Phoenix Mercury C Brittney Griner's] team, from the government to keep a relatively low profile?
Engelbert: We’ve met with a variety of government officials, and that’s the guidance they were giving us. Now it’s shifted a little bit with this positive development of her case being transferred. That’s why you’re seeing us and teams and players out there a little bit more.

Q: The WNBA announced a $75M capital raise in February. Where is that money going? What’s the priority for this infusion?
Engelbert: We’re going to pay over $1 million dollars in marketing money to players this year to market the league in the offseason. ... Sports betting, NFTs, gaming. Do more in the youth area. ... We have not done a good job of globalizing our game, and we need to do that.

Q: What challenges are unique to running a sports league that you didn’t find in your prior CEO life at Deloitte?
Engelbert: It’s much more of a public facing role than I thought. ... When I go to arenas, I like to meet with fan groups and hear what their peeve points are about us, and what their positives are (TIME.com, 5/15).

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